Skogen - _I Döden_
(Nordvis Produktion, 2014)
by: Mark Dolson (9 out of 10)
Back in the late fall of 1992, when I was just 17, a good friend of mine (a guy named Rich) had just purchased the newest Atrocity album _ Todessehnsucht_ ("Longing for Death") on cassette. After looking at the cool photos of the band inside, I remember he said he was going to do something cool while listening to it for the first time. A few days later, he called me and said that I had the coolest listening experience ever. When I asked him what he did, he told me that he crossed a major highway on the outskirts of our city, and found a highway-side forest. He said he found a spot in the middle of the forest -- and, keep in mind, this is a highway-side forest, so there were absolutely no hikers, hunters, our mountain bikers around -- and covered himself with leaves. With _Todessehnsucht_ in his Sony Sports Walkman, he said he just laid there and listened to the album in its entirety -- completely undisturbed. When it was finished, he got up, walked back across the highway and went home. After he told me about it, I thought this was such a cool thing to do that I wanted to try it myself -- but I never did.

What does that have to do with this review? Well, after listening to the new Skogen ("The Forest" in Swedish) album, interestingly entitled _I Döden _ ("In Death"), many times over the past month, all I could think about was going to a forest, covering myself with leaves, and just lying there listening to this album. Sadly, all of the forests near my house are always busy with hikers and mountain-bikers; and I think it would look pretty hilarious to stumble across a dude in his late 30s covered in leaves clutching his iPod with a grim look on his face. At any rate, _I Döden _ is probably the perfect album for walking through the forest. The images this album evokes strongly each time I listen to it are all based on nature: trees, rivers, valleys, paths, swamps, the shifting evening chiaroscuro of sun and canopy, as well as the wildlife that inhabits and circulates through all of these things.

Musically, what we have here is mostly mid-paced Swedish black metal with the occasional burst of intensity rooted in speed by way of blast-beats and fast riffing. Each song bears the impress of such a sense of forlornness and despondency, that it has a very hypnotic and contemplative effect on me. I don't come away from each listen feeling depressed; however, _I Döden _ does create a very strange pensive and reflective ambience within me. This is most notably caused by the great acoustic interludes, accompanied as they are by the very subtle use of synthesizer -- all of which is offset by Skogen's meditative approach to black metal riffs (which are sometimes melodic, sometimes atonal, and sometimes just plain dark, nasty and grim).

While I'm usually loath to strike comparisons with other bands -- I always seem to do it in my reviews for the sake of providing our readers with at least some tangible parallels with similar music -- I found some of the songs on _I Döden _ bore a similarity to old Satyricon (i.e., _The Shadowthrone_) and Burzum (i.e., _Hvis Lyset Tar Oss_ or _Filosofem_). More particularly, there are a few Satyricon-style riffs that are great, like at the beginning of "När Himlen Svartnar" ("When the Sky Turns Black"). Anyone familiar with _The Shadowthrone_ will understand the comparison. The link with Burzum, to me, is really based on the ambient, minimalist use of synthesizer, and more slower paced riffs -- this is especially evident on the song "Svartskogen" ("The Blackforest"), though it's found throughout _I Döden _. The black metal vocals have a mid-range harshness to them (not low, but not screechy like Varg Vikernes'); while the clean vocals, which are used sparsely, are clam and clear with a rather haunting quality -- just listen to the song "Solarvore" ("Suneater") to see what I mean.

If you're interested in atmospheric, contemplative black metal, I would definitely head on over to the Nordvis website and support the band by buying either the album, a shirt, or both. They deserve it, as this a well-played, well-written, and well-envisioned addition to the genre.


(article published 6/5/2014)

5/2/2010 N Shahpazov 7.5 Skogen - Vittra
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